On June 6, 2015, a donation based yoga class titled Vinyasa for Vets was held at SHINE Power Yoga in Maple Shade, NJ under the instruction of CJ Keller (Capt., USMC) founder of Philly Yoga for Vets. While the class encourages donations, it is a free outreach program to veterans and military personnel suffering from PTSD. It is through the generosity of studio owner/founder, Wanda Gilhool that this program is being offered every Saturday at 2pm at the Maple Shade studio and benefits Active Heroes. But this is not the first time SHINE Power Yoga has stepped up and supported Active Heroes. Wanda and the SHINE Power Yoga community have donated and supported several of the Carry the Fallen events held in the South Jersey region. Regardless of the class size, the class is held! The first class had approximately twelve students with some participants being Veterans while others were merely supporters of our military personnel. The best part is no experience is necessary and once in the studio, there is an environment of acceptance, peacefulness and gratitude for who we are as people. It does not take long for a person to realize that they have a support system around them if they need help.
“These yoga classes are not your typical yoga. It is geared toward those in the military. It is more firm than your typical yoga class, but the benefits and value they receive are just as strong,” said Moorestown resident CJ Keller, a Marine veteran and Yoga for Vets instructor.
Keller started these classes after he had left the Marines but as we all know you never really “leave the Marines”. He joined out of a sense of duty to his country and was deployed to Iraq in 2006-2007 and is committed to helping others through this program. He had been part of convoy operations, clearing roads of IEDs and insurgents. He was attacked and saw others injured and killed. It was traumatic, but he didn’t realize it right away like so many others.
In 2011, Keller decided he couldn’t keep his experience to himself and decided to train to become a teacher. That summer, he started teaching Yoga for Vets. He spent four years building a community in Baltimore and created a new sense of purpose and connection to veterans, others and himself.
“It saved my life. I was spiraling down an emotional rollercoaster, and then I learned I could actually take charge of my own healing organically without medication or alcohol. I could save myself and empower others to do the same thing. My life had taken on purpose,” Keller said in an interview with the Morristown Sun.
The classes are held weekly, with no current end date. Anyone can join at any time as long as they can verify service, which Keller can do with some questions and the proper answers. There is no need to sign up online or have a mat. Drop-ins are allowed and mats can be provided. All vets need to do is come and wear comfortable clothing for yoga.
“I am extremely grateful for Wanda Gilhool, The SHINE Power Yoga Community, my wife Kristen for introducing me to yoga and CJ Keller for assisting me to help the mission of Active Heroes locally,” said Active Heroes ambassador, Brian Poliafico. “We are reaching Veterans and making a difference in their lives. This mission is bigger than a single person and it will take a society of support to end this epidemic. I am proud to be part of Active Heroes and honored that the Active Heroes community has accepted me even though I did not serve in our nations military.”
Shine Power Yoga is located at 112 E. Main St. in Maple Shade, NJ (www.shinepoweryoga.com).
Learn more about Active Heroes at: www.ActiveHeroes.org